Sunday, November 25, 2012

Is a leak at Elections Canada providing confidential voter information?

On Friday, Canada’s notorious robocall propagandist Stephen Maher published yet another “Gotcha!” moment in the robocall conspiracy: that some Conservatives in the riding of Laurier-Sainte-Marie never actually donated to the Conservative campaign, despite the Conservative’s financial statements saying they did.


Of course, it all blew up when it turned out those individuals did donate to the party, and it turned out Maher published his bogus story without even bothering to ask the Conservative Party for comment.

But there’s a more concerning issue here:

“Postmedia tried to contact all the donors on the riding’s donor list from 2007 to 2009, almost 550 people. Many failed to return calls; others could not be located.

Here’s the Elections Canada database, in which you can search for any person who’s donated to a political party.  No issue there: it’s publicly available information.

Anyone can click on a person’s name, which opens up a pop-up window which says the person’s name, city, province, and postal code.  That’s it.

So here’s what concerns me: how was Maher able to contact these individual donors – indeed voters – when the only information Elections Canada publicly provides is the postal code?

As if it’s not sleazy enough to have these two rifling through garbage cans to stir up their next false controversy, it’s just plain suspicious to be attempting to contact voters – and succeed at least 11 times.

From whom did Maher obtain these voters’ information?
How many times did Maher attempt to contact them?
At what times of the day did Maher attempt to contact them?
What exactly did Maher say to these individuals once he got a hold of them?
What exactly did these individuals say to Maher?
How did Maher contact these voters?  Elections Canada apparently does not track phone numbers, so are we to believe Maher contacted over 500 people by mail – and by postal code only, no less?

And secondly, if Maher was able to use another source of information to contact voters, doesn't that prove he's using another party's database (or some other voter ID software) to contact these voters?

Most importantly of all, is there a leak at Elections Canada?  At worst, they could be providing confidential access to voters lists, which is not allowed:
Safeguarding your personal information 
Elections Canada takes precautions to ensure that the information contained in the National Register of Electors is kept secure and used for authorized purposes only. Employees' access to the Register is carefully controlled, and the database itself is physically secured and protected by hardware, software, firewalls and procedural controls.

We already know Elections Canada has had employees leaking information to the media for months, so it’s not a far stretch.

What do you think?

Update June 2013: I'm not the only person questioning whether a leak exists at Elections Canada.  Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro has had confidential interviews with Elections Canada mysteriously leaked to the press.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Another "Gotcha!" Moment. Oh, wait

It's another "Gotcha!" moment by Canada's dumpster-diving reporters:

"Several people listed as donors to a Conservative riding association in Montreal say they did not make the donations attributed to them by the party."

Oh, wait:

"The federal Conservative Party on Friday produced copies of cheques for seven donors from a Montreal riding association who earlier had told Postmedia News they did not contribute to the party.

One businessman who earlier told Postmedia News that he hadn’t donated to a Conservative riding association was able to recall his donation after Postmedia News published a story on Friday."

(H/T: BC Blue)

So much for another have-not scandal.  Isn't it amazing, even with all these false controversies and unproven allegations, that this summary, written 9 months ago, is still the only substantive true information we have on this fake witch hunt?

But seriously, how desperate are you to find any impropriety that you're shopping through the Elections Canada contributions database, somehow finding those individuals' addresses or phone numbers, contacting them, then running to your computer when someone doesn't remember a donation they made two years ago?  They're not even dumpster diving properly!

Friday, November 23, 2012

A week in review for the Liberal Party

Let's recap this eventful past week for the Liberal Party:

David McGuinty, younger brother of Dalton McGuinty (disgraced former Premier of Ontario), says anyone who believes in energy sector innovation is a "shill" and should "go back home" to Alberta.

Justin Trudeau, Liberal leadership candidate, apparently shares McGuinty's hatred for Alberta, and says Canada is better off when Quebecers run the country.

Joe Fontana, former Liberal cabinet minister and current mayor of London, Ontario, is charged with fraud, breach of trust, and uttering forged documents after he used over $20,000 in taxpayers' money to pay for his son's wedding.

Yep, I have no clue why the Liberals are the third-placed party.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ottawa South Liberal MP's divisive comments

Anyone who believes in energy sector innovation is a "shill"

Alberta MP's should "go back to Alberta"

... Well, if the Liberals aren't again attempting to divide Canada from east to west and force Canadians to fight Canadians, Albertans to fight Ontarians, then I really don't know from where these despicable comments are coming.

I guess now that McGuinty has ruled out running for Liberal leadership, and the McGuinty namesake is completely destroyed across Ontario, David can finally say what he really feels.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Ottawa Highlanders a fitting name for 2014 CFL team

Partially published in the Ottawa Citizen on November 26, 2012

Sports team names these days reflect a city’s culture and heritage more than ever before.  The relatively new Winnipeg Jets were named after the Winnipeg Air Force Base: 17 Wing.  The Ottawa Senators were named after Roman soldiers who also sat in that Empire’s Senate, homage to Ottawa being Canada’s capital and location of our Senate.

Now that the obstructive Friends of Landsdowne lawsuits have been beaten into the ground for the last time, it’s time for Ottawa to focus on drafting, creating, and hosting our new Canadian Football League team come 2014.

There is no better name which best celebrates Ottawa’s history, culture, and identity than the Ottawa Highlanders.

The current Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa traces its Ottawa roots back to 1866.  The 43rd Battalion of Infantry was on Parliament Hill for Canada’s official Confederation on July 1, 1867.  In 1870, the regiment defended Ottawa in the Fenian raids, mobilizing nine companies of soldiers in Ottawa, Prescott, and surrounding areas to secure Canada.  They would later quell the Riel separatist threat in western Canada in 1881.

The 43rd Battalion paraded at Landsdowne Park before moving to their current location of Cartier Square Drill Hall.  They maintained the stadium and assisted the players before and after games.  And the Drill Hall, too, is central to Ottawa’s history: it was originally a shelter used to dry the wood being driven down the Rideau Canal and Ottawa River, before being shipped further into Canada.  The log drivers’ motto then was “Advance!” which is carried by Ottawa’s regiment to this day: a reminder to continue to push forward, carry on, and advance.

During World War One, the then-titled 38th Ottawa Battalion earned battle honours for Canada which are still heralded today. Ottawa’s Battalion sustained over 2800 casualties defending Canada at Somme, Arras, Ypres, Vimy, Passchendale, Amiens, and Hindenburg Line, among others.

The Ottawans fortunate enough to return did so with 299 decorations for bravery: two Victoria Crosses, nine Distinguished Service Orders, 35 Military Crosses, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, and many more.

In 1933, the regiment was named The Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa and was honoured to be presented The King’s Colours and its Regimental Colours on Parliament Hill by His Majesty King George V.

By World War Two, the Camerons deployed 800 of Ottawa’s finest, bravest citizens to Europe.  In fact, the Cameron Highlanders were the only Ottawa-based unit to land at Normandy on D-Day (June 6, 1944), and provided significant support to several Allied forces in the area.

One hundred sixty Ottawans laid down their lives in that war, and again returned home with numerous battle honours for their sacrifices.  These included Normandy Landing, Caen, The Orne, The Rhineland, Leer, and many more.

Ottawa’s Regiment has done our city a great service for over 140 years.  Returning from WWII, the Cameron Highlanders remained in constant support of local police and national authorities.  They served overseas protecting people in Cyprus, Croatia, Israel, Lebanon, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, and the Congo.

In 1989, the Camerons were honoured to be named the best militia infantry unit in Canada.  It is also no wonder that the regiment comprised of some of Ottawa’s finest, most dedicated individuals was proclaimed Ottawa’s Regiment and given Freedom of the City in 1996 by then-Mayor Jim Watson.
The 1998 ice storm crippled cities and infrastructure with little notice.  When police, fire, and emergency responders were stuck, the Cameron Highlanders were some of the first boots on the ground, and they quickly stepped up to provide vital rescue and assistance efforts which saved lives and restored city services.

More recently, they continue to serve Ottawa and Canada proud in Afghanistan and other vital humanitarian missions at home and around the world.

But perhaps most notable of all, these fine Ottawa residents carry out often thankless duties while continuing to live, work, and attend school among ordinary citizens.  They go to school at Carleton, uOttawa, and Algonquin College.  They work as security guards and police officers.  They work for other government agencies such as Transport and Revenue Canada.  They tirelessly parade with the Ceremonial Guard throughout the summer.  They own and manage small businesses.  Indeed, many of these extraordinary citizens perform their military duties on top of their “day jobs.”  They demonstrate the highest commitment to Ottawa and our country, worthy of the highest honour and respect.

Considering this history, it only seems a fitting name for our city.  As Jeff Hunt, Chair of the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (the company that owns the currently unnamed CFL team), admits, a name with strong connections to Ottawa’s history is a must.

If I could make one suggestion to make the Highlanders even more representative and historic, it would be to increase the use of the Cameron of Erracht tartan, the blue hackle, thistles, and St. Andrew’s Cross.  The silhouette of a soldier in a WWII helmet is certainly historic – but what of the current generation’s commitment to Bosnia, Israel, and Afghanistan?

Just imagine: Ottawa’s football team in kilts, with a blue hackle over the left ear and a thistle over the right. Conversely, a plaid jersey.  The possibilities are endless to create stunning uniforms which maintain their connection to the Highland tradition.

In recognition of a military regiment so deeply engrained in Ottawa, representative of our history, culture, and identity, there is no better name for our 2014 CFL team: the Ottawa Highlanders.

ADVANCE!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Durham Liberals set up front group to secretly solicit donations

The party rightly thrown out of office in 2006 for their shady handling of taxpayers' money should have learned by now.

There's this new organization called "Durham 4 Vets."  It sounds like a great organization, as are most organizations that make it a priority to assist those who have served Canada's interests at home and abroad. They can't spell that well, but their intentions seem good.

Upon entering you're given this page:

(It's heroes, by the way, unless you're intending to speak up for heros, a type of fish.)

So far so good.  What does this organization stand for?  They've taken exception with the NDP's decision to vote against tough penalties for people caught defacing war memorials.  Great.  They also encourage Canadians to wear poppies and remember the ultimate sacrifices our veterans made - and continue to make - so Canadians can carry on living our way of life.  Also great.  And I can even sign a petition saying I'm concerned about Canada's veterans and want to make a $20 donation to keep this organization going.  Perfect.

So let's theoretically say that I, as your average Durham resident, want to donate to this seemingly great organization.  But who's their President? I'm not sure. Their Managing Director?  Their founder?  Their Board of Directors?  What's their address?  When were they founded?

I mysteriously have no answers to any of these questions.  I guess I can just blindly click the "Donate" button and hope my money gets to the right place.

Oh, wait. It's a Liberal Party front group, attempting to secretly funnel donations intended to "support our vets" into the Liberal Party's byelection campaign in Durham.

The irony here is overbearing, as is the potential illegality of such a campaign.  But let's first consider the irony: the Liberal Party attempting to campaign on supporting our veterans, yet, when in office for over a decade, they drastically cut funding for Canada's National Defence. There was a name for that decade - the Decade of Darkness - and not just because the Liberals were frivolously handing taxpayers' money to their friends in dark alleys at night.  (Where is that money, anyway?)  Liberals campaigning on supporting our veterans would be like the NDP campaigning to have the lowest corporate tax rate in the world - their words simply don't match their actions.

Next, the potential illegality.  Contributions - obviously - have to be freely given to a political party or candidate with the intention of supporting that party or candidate.  To attempt to secretly solicit funding for the Liberal campaign under the guise of a front group for "supporting veterans" is tantamount to fraud.  It's taking your money intended to support our veterans and putting it in sticky Liberal hands for a completely different purpose.  Since when do the Liberals have any ability to take your money and support our veterans? They don't.

In fact, there isn't a single Liberal logo on this website.  It's not until you click the Donate button that you actually discover the warning "gee, we can't actually fraudulently take your money this way, so if you'll continue to our Liberal website we'll take your money there."

(It's actually the Canada Elections Act or at least the Elections Act.  And "To donate to continue our campaign" makes no sense whatsoever; I think you're missing a "Click to donate...")

This desperate funny business comes at a time when the Liberals have already been fined for illegal robocalls and have a history of shady money handling.  It's a complete disgrace that the Liberals are using our veterans as a charity (in their words) to solicit campaign funds, and it might also be illegal.

I'd love to see what the Chief Electoral Officer has to say, and I'm sure you would too. So here's his contact information:

Email: info@elections.ca

General Complaint Form

Phone: 1-800-463-6868

Mail: Marc Mayrand, Chief Electoral Officer
Elections Canada
257 Slater Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0M6

Friday, November 2, 2012

Real answers are needed in Elections Canada’s incompetent robocall investigation


Embattled former Conservative staffer Michael Sona had his first sit-down interview with Evan Solomon on the CBC’s Power and Politics this week.

Regardless of your perspective on the “robocalls” scandal (if there is one) you have to admit that a Conservative giving an interview to the openly hostile and anti-conservative state broadcaster was a feat to overcome in itself.

Sona answered questions on Conservative candidate Marty Burke’s campaign in Guelph, including Sona’s communications role, unauthorized polling stations at the University of Guelph, and – plainly – whether Sona was the imagined “Pierre Poutine.”

But there was one gaping hole in Solomon’s interview: it still assumes that any of these calls were done by Conservatives.

Sona confirmed he was not in any way involved in fraudulent calls within the first 30 seconds of the interview.  Yet for the next 20 minutes Solomon grilled Sona as if he or his party was.

Are you Pierre Poutine?  No.  Did you conduct fraudulent robocalls?  No.  Sona didn’t even have access to the database to be able to conduct these calls – again, assuming it even came from a Conservative.

Then again, Sona was already cleared from any wrongdoing months ago when Elections Canada recognized they had misattributed quotes to Sona, leaving absolutely no evidence against him.  Woops.

Thus, the entire interview was premised on old news which was disproved ages ago. It’d be like having a debate in 2012 about whether dinosaurs still exist or whether the Earth is flat.

What about some current news which could have been discussed?  Canadians need real answers to real questions regarding what has been revealed to be an entirely fake scandal.

In Solomon’s entire interview with Sona, not once did he remind viewers that the Guelph Liberals have already been fined for illegal robocalls.  In those deceptive robocalls, a female caller with a fake name attempted to solicit fear against the Conservative candidate for his views on abortion.  There was no identification as the Liberal campaign, there was no “Lori McDonald,” and they used a fake phone number with a prepaid, “burner cellphone” which was disposed of after the calls were made.  The Guelph Liberal MP behind those calls also may have slipped in admitting these calls targeted Conservatives.

All of these are mysteriously similar – if not identical – characteristics of the illegal calls now being investigated.  Why are we not exploring whether they also targeted other voters with their claims that a polling station or two had moved? It’s not a far stretch.

Some other questions Canadians deserve to have answered relate directly to the gross incompetence of Elections Canada in the handling of these claims.

Elections Canada became aware of misleading calls in Guelph on May 2, 2011 – the day of the election.

That’s 551 days and counting.  What have they accomplished?

Sona has been told the Elections Canada investigation has been completed and the report is written.  Where is that report?  What does it say?  Why hasn’t it been released?  When will it be released?

How many millions of taxpayers’ dollars have been wasted on chasing an innocent person?

Tales of call centre employees who knew what was “really” going on have been revealed to be completely false.  How much money has been spent on investigating legitimate leads?

How many Guelph Liberals have been interviewed on their role in illegal phone calls?

How many Guelph NDP staffers have been interviewed on their role in illegal phone calls?  And other fringe parties?

How many anarchist, anti-government, and obstructive leftist organizations have been interviewed on whether they had a role in illegal phone calls?

How many Elections Canada officials have been interviewed on whether they sent out legitimate notices of poll changes, only to have that message conflict with what senior managers intended to communicate?  We already know rogue Elections officials love doing things without authorization from their bosses.  Some of them completely close polling stations to go for dinner; some of them open up unauthorized, illegitimate polls on university campuses; and others take ballot boxes for a joy ride in their personal vehicle.

Michael Sona’s name was cleared months ago.  Now it’s time to focus our attention on the gross incompetence of Elections Canada in opening, investigating, and closing a straightforward investigation, and whether they should even have the authority to do this in the future.